Thinking of Renting a Home on Maui for your next vacation? How to tell if it's a legal rental

Posted by Courtney Brown on Monday, May 21st, 2018 at 5:04pm.

Homes and Short Term Vacation Rentals in Maui County

Sunset Maui

How can you tell if the vacation rental listing of a Home is a scam or a legal rental?

I often get calls from people planning their vacation here on Maui and considering a home instead of a condo or hotel. The calls sometimes come when it just seems too good to be true; at other times, it's after they've paid deposits and can't reach their contact; and some come after they google the address and see the home is listed for sale.  Unfortunately, in almost all of these cases, the property is not a legal vacation rental.  Photos are simply taken from websites and used in online ads in a rental scam. 

It breaks my heart to hear these stories--sometimes they call before they've wired money, but sometimes they've sent large deposits. It is distressing, as many of these callers have been saving for a long time for a trip, thought they'd found a great deal and are bringing several family members.  

The easiest way to check is to go to the Maui County Website Short Term Rental Home Permit Application Page.  Under resources, you will find links to lists of addresses homes legally permitted to be rented for periods of less than 180 days if they have either a Short Term Rental Home permit, B&B Permit or Conditional Use Permit (note: homes built in the Hotel zone would not be listed). View the County Site

Some Questions to Ask:

  • What is their General Excise Tax number?  A short-term rental must pay the State of Hawaii both General Excise Tax (GET) as well as Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT)
  • What is their STRH, B&B or Conditional Use permit number?
  • Who is their on-island rental manager?  
  • Does this seem too good to be true?  

Another is to book through a reputable luxury home rental management company with on-island representatives.  I'm happy to provide you with referrals.

What should you do if you have been a victim of fraud?

  • Report it to the website where the ad is placed
  • Contact Maui Police Dept. and file a report
  • If there is money transferred across state lines, it can be reported to the FBI
  • Report any such activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at:

More Information on the Short Term Rental Home Permit.

Very few homes are built on hotel-zoned properties--an exception,  for example, is Kai Ala Place where there are single family dwellings located on hotel zoned parcels.  There are just six parcels in this beachfront residential community in Kaanapali.  This is rare, as developers will typically build to the highest and best use of the property's zoning so it is rare to find a hotel zoned parcel that has just a single residence on it.  Maui County defines a short-term rental as anything less than 180 days. 

If a home is being rented for less than 180 days, it is considered a transient rental or vacation rental.  In order to be a legal rental, it must be more than five years old and the county requires the owner obtain a Short Term Rental Home Permit (STRH).  The county has imposed caps in each area:

  • Hana 48
  • Kihei-Makena 100
  • Makawao-Pukalani-Kula 40
  • Paia-Haiku 88
  • Wailuku-Kahului 36
  • West Maui 88
  • Lanai 15
  • Molokai 19

You can read more about that in my post on Maui Vacation Rentals and Property Management Requirements.

For Consumers booking a vacation rental:  "Per Maui County Website, there are more than 16,000 units (i.e., apartments, condos, houses) that are legally eligible to operate as short-term (less than six months) rentals without requiring a Bed & Breakfast Permit or Conditional Permit. These units are generally located in districts zoned for hotel use, but some are also located in apartment districts, or are covered by other pre-existing situations. The operation of short-term rentals in these zoning districts is consistent with current County of Maui zoning ordinances, Community Plans, General Plan, and State law. All short-term rentals are also required to pay State of Hawaii General Excise Tax (GET) and Transient Accommodation Tax (TAT). It is recommended that you inquire with the owner as to whether they are operating in compliance with all current laws."  Lists of Permitted B&B's, STRH's, TVR's can be found on the county website, as indicated above.

Courtney M. Brown, R(S)
Vice President
Island Sotheby's International Realty


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